OBJECTIVE: Ultrasound scanning is a routine part of preprocedure abortion care, and many health care providers offer patients the opportunity to view their ultrasound images. It has been speculated that ultrasound viewing will dissuade women from having an abortion. We examine whether viewing the image is associated with choosing to continue the pregnancy.
METHODS: Data from medical records for 15,575 visits by women seeking abortion care at a large, urban abortion provider in 2011 were analyzed for factors associated with choosing to continue the pregnancy. All patients received a preprocedure ultrasound scan and were offered the opportunity to view the image.
RESULTS: Patients opted to view the ultrasound image 42.5% of the time. Nearly all pregnancies (98.8%) were terminated: 98.4% of pregnancies among women who viewed their ultrasound images and 99.0% of pregnancies among the patients who did not. Among women with high decision certainty, viewing was not associated with deciding to continue the pregnancy. Viewing was significantly associated with deciding to continue the pregnancy only among the 7.4% of women who reported medium or low decision certainty about having an abortion (adjusted odds ratio 3.21, 95% confidence interval 1.18–8.73).
CONCLUSION: Voluntarily viewing the ultrasound image may contribute to a small proportion of women with medium or low decision certainty deciding to continue the pregnancy; such viewing does not alter decisions of the large majority of women who are certain that abortion is the right decision.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II
Preabortion ultrasound viewing is associated with continuing the pregnancy only for those women with lower decision certainty about the abortion.
Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Science, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
Corresponding author: Katrina Kimport, PhD, ANSIRH, UCSF, 1330 Broadway, Suite 1100, Oakland, CA 94612; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding for this analysis was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the University of California, San Francisco National Center of Excellence in Women's Health.
The authors thank the staff at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles for abstracting and deidentifying the data.
Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.